Book Review: The despairing hope of Childhood’s End

I tend to dole out five star reviews like candy on halloween night, but five star reviews are few and far-between. Five star reviews are reserved for exceptional works of literature that leave an emotional impact, that cause me to consider deep questions of life, spirituality, or philosophy, or even have me up reading all night long with complete disregard of the massive exam that I have the following morning. We are talking books such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy or Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke is one such book worthy of the 5 star rating. The feeling I had when I finished it last night could best be described as “despairing hope.”

CE bookcover

(Some spoiler-y material ahead, but nothing too explicit)

Starting off, the plot seems quite obvious. The Overlords, a seemingly benevolent race, appear one day and firmly, yet unobtrusively, take control of Earth. War, sickness, poverty… All gone within a generation. But what are the ultimate motives of the Overlords?

Then finally the Supervisor of Earth, the Overlord known as Karellen, makes an appearance, and his appearance harkens back to fears of an age long-past.

All proceeds as planned, and Earth continues on, but something unexpected happens. Something terrible. Something wonderful. Something that will change humanity forever….

If I had one complaint about the novel, it would be that it lacks a bit in character development. The book is short, and moves quickly, but there are moments when I wished Clarke would have spent a little bit more time fleshing out a couple of characters. Despite this drawback, however, I will say that I was genuinely invested in their plight, and touched by the end result of the book.

Childhood’s End is truly a science fiction masterpiece. The work is episodic in nature, but Clarke pulls it off well. As a religious person, I found many of the ideas he presents thought-provoking. I didn’t agree with all of them, but I definitely appreciated his reasoning behind them. While the book can at times seems dated (computers still fill entire rooms), he makes some surprising predictions, such as the advent of holograms.

Clarke’s novel is a quick read that still contains plenty of depth, good for vacation.

Are you ready for your childhood to end?

Childhood’s End rating: 5/5 stars for its scope, examination of the human condition, quality of prose and storytelling, and for its strong adherence to the traditional science fiction genre.

(The above review appeared originally on my Goodreads profile)

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